Friday, December 21, 2007

Stroll, don't run to "Walk Hard"

Summary: "Walk Hard, the Dewey Cox Story" goofs on musical bio pics, notably "Ray" and even more prominently "Walk the Line." Although director Jake Kasdan - with help from comedy whiz Judd Apatow -- understands the genre well enough to deliver a spot-on parody, his movie isn't as laugh-packed as you might expect.

John C. Reilly stars as Dewey Cox, a young man suffering from guilt acquired when, as a child, he accidentally cut his older brother in half with a machete. Hey, accidents happen. From that point on, Dewey's story follows the arc we've seen in what seems like a zillion biopics. Poor boy leaves home, marries young, makes it big, succumbs to the temptations of sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll, loses his marriage and finally hooks up with the love of his life (Jenna Fischer), a backup singer. He also constantly changes musical styles as he seeks ways to pander... I mean adapt... to shifting tastes.

As is the case with most broadly conceived parodies, "Walk Hard" runs the risk of giving offense. The song "Mama You Got to Love Your Negro Man'' -- sung by Dewey when he substitutes for a black blues singer who has taken ill -- may cause as much wincing as chuckling, and the movie doesn't hesitate to serve up tasteless jokes based on the bigoted belief that Jews run all of show business.

Still, Walk Hard" is not a movie to belabor: There's an amusing sendup of the Beatles during their LSD, Transcendental Meditation period. Paul Rudd, Jack Black, Jason Schwartzman and Justin Long play the Beatles. And you should find just enough laughs to keep you from turning against a comedy that grows repetitive as it mocks every genre cliche it can find, throwing in a few shockers to boot. Most notable among these: some full-frontal male nudity.

Those who know Reilly's work won't be surprised to learn that he's pitch perfect as the increasingly ravaged Dewey, but I was expecting Kasdan and company to hit the comedy bull's eye. Instead, they've managed nicely to survive the perils of what amounts to a one-joke comedy.


It's not a comedy, but "National Treasure: Book of Secrets" is a joke, a preposterous movie that follows 2004's "National Treasure." Nicolas Cage returns to show that he can still overact. More trash than treasure, this one seemed to prove only one thing: Ed Harris and Helen Mirren can appear in bad movies and survive with their dignity in tact. That's saying something, particularly when we're talking about a movie that expects us to believe that there's a golden city located beneath Mount Rushmore. The plot: Cage tries to clear the name of an ancestor who recently has been implicated by a theorists who say he was part of a conspiracy to assassinate Abraham Lincoln. If there's any real fun here, it's as hidden as the silly book of secrets that gives the movie its title.

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